5 ways climate change will affect plants and animals

By Tara Lohan

Scientists have reminded us once again that when it comes to climate change, we are all in this together. A study published last month in Natural climate change concluded that at least 85% of the world’s population has already been affected by climate change.


“It is likely that almost everyone in the world is now experiencing changes in extreme weather patterns due to human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Friederike Otto, senior lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Imperial College environment. Told The Washington Post.

As long as we are all in the same boat, all is not equal. Wealthier countries like the United States play an outsized role in pumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere, but less wealthy countries face the greatest risks. We also know far less about how climate change will affect poorer countries – far more research and resources have gone into studying North America than Africa or South America, according to the study.

These knowledge gaps don’t just affect people. Countless species of plants and animals are facing a warming world. Researchers have found that rising temperatures and related impacts can lead to changes in behavior, reproduction, migration and foraging. Biologist Thor Hanson wrote in a recent book that 25% to 85% of species on the planet are already on the move due to climate change. What happens when new neighbors interact in these new ecosystems is something we don’t know much about so far, because the ripple effects are huge and numerous.

But the more scientists discover how plants and animals – and their habitats – can change, the more effective conservation measures will be.

The Revealer has been keeping tabs on the burgeoning field of climate change biology. Here are five new discoveries scientists have made recently about wildlife and climate change.

Cottongrass blows in the wind at Lake Etivlik, Alaska. The plant is a sedge with seeds dispersed by the wind. Western Arctic National Parks / CC BY 2.0

1. Pack your bags. Many species of bats will have to move to find suitable habitat as their current homes are expected to become warmer and drier. Some, like the Isabelline Serotine bat (Eptesicus isabellinus), could be forced to move 1,000 miles. The greatest exodus is likely to come from coastal Europe and North Africa, which are already home to the greatest species richness.

2. Not child’s play. While fish may swim to cooler waters as the ocean warms, plants may have a harder time finding suitable habitat in a changing climate. A study 2020 found that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics or on the windward sides of mountain ranges might face the greatest problems because the wind is unlikely to move them in a climate-friendly direction.

3. Forest for trees. Mangrove forests can help mitigate climate change and have been shown to store up to four times more carbon than other tropical forests. They also help protect coastlines from hurricane damage. Nature-based solutions to help mitigate the effects of climate change are good news, but researchers have also learned that the mangroves themselves are threatened by rising seas. If we want the help of the mangroves, we are going to have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to help them too.

4. Disasters abound. So far this year, the United States has been hit by 18 weather and climate disasters costing $1 billion each. However, an increase in the severity of extreme weather is not just an economic concern. Researchers say such events can also taking a wildlife toll by killing animals or indirectly destroying food and habitat, contaminating water, or forcing wildlife to move to areas of greater competition or predation.

5. Take the slow lane. Sometimes you just need a good place to hide. Last year the magazine Borders of ecology and environment dedicated one the whole problem to new research on how to identify and manage refuge from climate change — areas where the effects of rising temperatures are largely mitigated due to unique local conditions. As one of the studies explains, “As the effects of climate change accelerate, climate change refugia provide a slow pathway to allow the persistence of short-term focal resources and long-term transitional refugia. term”.

The hunt for climate refugia is another reminder of the benefits research can have on conservation, and why such scientific efforts need geographic parity so that certain regions – and their biodiversity – are not overlooked.

Republished with permission from The developer.

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